European consumers express a strong interest in a number of today’s emerging automotive technologies, but most are not willing to buy many of these features unless manufacturers lower the price, according to the JD Power and Associates 2003 European Automotive Emerging Technologies Study released on Friday.

The study examines consumer awareness and future demand for 11 automotive technologies across Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

At least two-thirds of European consumers express strong interest in seven of the 11 technologies included in the study before the feature’s price is introduced. However, once a fair market price is presented, interest drops dramatically, a fact also established in a similar JD Power survey published in Japan today and reported separately by just-auto.

For example, 75% of European survey respondents express a strong interest in a navigation system on their next new vehicle before they know the mid-point price for the feature. After the price is introduced, only 26% of respondents are still interested.

Consistent with previous research conducted by JD Power on emerging technologies, the two most desirable features included in the study are safety-related. More than 80% of respondents express interest in external surround sensing and night vision systems.
External surround sensing technology alerts the driver if the vehicle is veering out of the lane, if another vehicle is in the driver’s blind spot, or if an object is in the vehicle’s path while backing up. Night vision systems enable the driver to see objects beyond the range of the headlights at night or in poor visibility conditions. Interest waned to 35% for external surround sensing and 32% for night vision once respondents become aware of the price.

“There are features that consumers want or think would be nice to have, but most are not willing to pay the price manufacturers expect to charge once these items hit the market,” said JD Power and Associates director of automotive emerging technologies Melissa Sauter. “The key for manufacturers is to know their target market and price the feature appropriately for those buyers. Features such as full-screen navigation systems, external surround sensing and night vision are relatively high-priced features that have the potential to be successful within niche buyer groups, but not to mainstream buyers unless prices come down significantly.”

Other features appear better suited for mass-market appeal. For example, brake-by-wire-an electronic control system that replaces the mechanical and hydraulic connections linking the brake pads to the brake pedal-has a high level of interest among 73% of respondents prior to the introduction of price, and 58% after a midpoint price is introduced. Flexible-format audio systems, which can play multiple music formats, including MP3, and wireless connectivity, a system that creates a wireless link between a vehicle and different portable devices such as a cell phone, laptop computer and personal digital assistant, also retain high levels of interest, with about one-half of consumers expressing interest after the market price is introduced.

Generally, German respondents are most familiar with the technologies studied while those in France express the highest level of initial interest. Across all three countries, full-screen navigation systems are the most recognised of the 11 technologies studied, with 34% of respondents claiming to be very familiar with this feature.

The 2003 study is based on responses from more than 5,700 consumers from across France, Germany and the UK.